Iowa made the headlines when it legalized sports betting in 2019, but that was only the latest upgrade to an existing gaming infrastructure, including casino gambling and horse racing betting.
One of the most popular casinos in the state is Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel, thanks in no small part to the thoroughbred racetrack located on-site. In addition to Prairie Meadows, the state is also home to Iowa Greyhound Park, one of the few remaining greyhound racing facilities in the country.
Harness racing is also featured at various fair events throughout the state, which also has its fair share of off-track betting facilities. Betting on horse racing is a legal and welcome pastime in Iowa, both in-person and online. Several of the top online operators in the industry happily serve Iowa horse racing fans.
Legal Horse Racing Betting Sites in Iowa
Online Horse Racing Betting in Iowa
Iowa legalized advance deposit wagering (ADW) in 2011, with legislation allowing operators to accept wagers online and through mobile devices. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) oversees horse racing and all parimutuel betting throughout the state.
Iowa Code §99D.11 (pg. 13) authorizes licensed providers to conduct pari-mutuel wagering in-person, online, and by “any other electronic means”:
An advance deposit wager may be placed in person at a licensed racetrack enclosure or any other location via a telephone-type device or other electronic means. The commission may also issue an advance deposit wagering operator license to an entity that complies with subparagraph (3) and section 99D.8A.
Iowa is also clearly listed as a legal state for horse racing betting on each of the major online sites available for use by residents: TVG, BetAmerica, and TwinSpires. Customers must be 21 or older to bet on horse races or greyhounds in Iowa.
There is only one option for live thoroughbred racing in Iowa. Prairie Meadows opened for business in 1989. It has since expanded to become a full-fledged racino. Iowa is also home to a greyhound race track. Harness racing is featured on the popular fair circuit in the state.
1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009
Prairie Meadows opened for business in 1989. Iowa officially legalized pari-mutuel racing in 1983, but options for live thoroughbred racing were limited for some time afterward. Prairie Meadows opened to fill the void.
The racing calendar runs from May through October each year and features both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races. Among the highlights is the annual Cornhusker Handicap, a Grade III stakes race at the end of June.
Prairie Meadows added slot machines in 1995 and has since expanded to become a full-fledged racino. Visitors will find an assortment of table games, slots, and a poker room.
The on-site hotel features 168 rooms for guests, who can also take advantage of various dining and entertainment options to round out their stay.
1855 Greyhound Park Drive
Dubuque, IA 52001
The greyhound park began operations in 1985, shortly after Iowa legalized pari-mutuel racing in Iowa. The live calendar runs from the spring through fall, while simulcast wagering is available year-round.
Like Prairie Meadows, this location has evolved into a full casino through the years. It shares an address with Q Casino and Hotel, which also features slots, table games, and a sportsbook.
The casino is attached to a Hilton Garden Inn for overnight stays. The property also features several different dining options, as well as a busy entertainment calendar.
While there’s no set location for Iowa harness racing, events are held regularly in locations including Eldon, Humboldt, and What Cheer. The website is updated regularly and includes a clear calendar of upcoming events.
Off-Track Betting in Iowa
While there may only be one venue for live thoroughbred racing in Iowa, the state is not lacking in options for off-track betting. Several venues across Iowa offer OTB. Here are the details on each of them and what they have to offer.
1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009
The state’s only place for live thoroughbred racing also features a simulcast facility open seven days per week. The venue offers a full assortment of races from the top tracks across the nation.
2701 23rd Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51502
This casino is in the Caesars family. A sports betting facility known as The Book recently opened on-site, which features a full assortment of HDTVs and a food and drink menu.
1 Harrah’s Boulevard
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
Harrah’s is also a part of the Caesars family. This location also features a venue known as The Book on site, which has several viewing options and cocktail service.
1855 Greyhound Park Road
Dubuque, IA 52001
The Iowa Greyhound Park also offers simulcasting of both horse and greyhound races. Simulcasting is offered Wednesday through Sunday starting at 10:30 AM.
777 Wild Rose Drive
Clinton, IA 52732
An off-track betting facility is open on Wednesdays through Sundays. Simulcasts from the various horse, harness, and greyhound tracks across the country are offered.
Iowa Horse Racing Betting Laws
Iowa officially legalized pari-mutuel racing in 1983. A full breakdown of the law, which also established the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, can be found online.
The system of wagering on the results of a horse or dog race as provided by this chapter is legal when conducted within the racetrack enclosure at a licensed horse race or dog-race meeting.
For several years, the only option for live racing for residents was at various fair events. That changed in 1989 when Prairie Meadows opened its doors. The racetrack located in Altoona is still going strong. In 1995, Prairie Meadows expanded with the addition of a casino and legalized slot gaming.
Major Horse Racing Events in Iowa
- Cornhusker Handicap: This is a Grade III stakes race that is held annually at Prairie Meadows. It’s a 9-furlong race that is open to three-year-olds and up.
- Iowa Derby: Held annually at Prairie Meadow, an 8.5-furlong Listed event that is open to three-year-olds.
- Iowa Classic: This is a full-day event at Prairie Meadows with a fill race schedule that features Iowa-bred horses.